College Basketball Nation: Damian Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Evan Turner carried Ohio State into the Big Ten tournament championship game.

His teammates did the rest. With Turner's help, of course.

Turner still played a huge role in a 90-61 win against Minnesota, but backcourt mates David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford borrowed the spotlight for a bit. Lighty and Diebler -- along with Turner, of course -- keyed the decisive 23-5 run midway through the second half. Ohio State was the aggressor immediately after halftime, Minnesota countered and then the Buckeyes delivered the knockout blow with layups and 3-pointers.

Ohio State made a convincing case for a No. 1 seed today, but the spot likely will go to Duke or West Virginia. Still, if the Buckeyes play like this, there's a decent chance they'll be back in Indy in three weeks. They scored 57 points in the second half.

The wait now begins for Minnesota, which had a very impressive tournament but would have liked a less lopsided result against Ohio State. It's debatable how much this game matters to the selection committee, but Minnesota must hope the bracket was finalized around 4:30 p.m. ET.

For a group that played almost every minute of the tournament together, Ohio State's backcourt only got stronger as things went along. To the surprise of no one, Turner was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after recording 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Lighty added 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Diebler (19 points) and Buford (13 points) also stepped up.

Minnesota didn't get nearly the same production from its key contributors. Guard Blake Hoffarber (0 points, 0-for-2 shooting) was a total nonfactor and got schooled by Diebler, and center Ralph Sampson III looked too tentative in the final. Lawrence Westbrook, Devoe Joseph and Damian Johnson did their part, but Ohio State simply had too much firepower.

Only one team has claimed the Big Ten tournament title by winning four games in four days, and Minnesota seemed to wear down today.
INDIANAPOLIS -- After an entertaining week of games at Conseco Fieldhouse, top seed Ohio State and No. 6 seed Minnesota meet today to decide the Big Ten tournament championship.

Here's a quick look at the matchup:

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Records: Ohio State (26-7), Minnesota (21-12)

Season series: Minnesota beat the Buckeyes 73-62 on Jan. 9 in Evan Turner's second game back from a back injury. Gophers sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber scored a career-high 27 points with six 3-pointers in the second half at Williams Arena. Ohio State crushed Minnesota 85-63 three weeks later in Columbus, as William Buford scored a career high 26 points and the Buckeyes shot a blistering 73 percent from the floor in the first half.

Big Ten tournament history: Ohio State is making its sixth appearance -- and second straight -- in the tournament championship game. The Buckeyes won the title in 2002 and 2007 and lost in 2009, 2006 and 2003. Minnesota makes its first appearance in the tournament final.

What to watch for Ohio State: The Buckeyes are still alive (barely) for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, although they likely would need a dominant win today, plus a Duke loss in the ACC tournament final. And even then, it probably wouldn't be enough. Ohio State hasn't been dominant this week at Conseco, but Turner and his teammates keep finding ways to win. Turner is well on his way to winning Most Outstanding Player at the tournament, having averaged 24.5 points, seven assists and 6.5 rebounds in two games. The junior guard has played well in both games against the Gophers, but he'll need help today from Buford, who comes off of a strong performance (22 points, 10 rebounds) against Illinois. Buford was dealing with some bad cramps as he walked off the news conference podium Saturday, but he should be fine today. The Buckeyes got some valuable minutes off the bench from Kyle Madsen on Saturday and will need him again against Minnesota's big men, who are playing really well in the tournament.

What to watch for Minnesota: The Gophers certainly look like an NCAA tournament team right now, but they don't want to leave their fate to the selection committee. A victory today completes a stellar four-game win and clinches a tournament berth for Tubby Smith's team. Bracketolgist Joe Lunardi has the Gophers as one of his last two teams in the field. A No. 6 seed has won the Big Ten tournament only once, as Iowa pulled it off in 2001, but Minnesota has been the most impressive team in this event. The Gophers have really turned up the heat on defense and need another great effort today against Turner, who looks unstoppable. Smith continues to gush about senior forward Damian Johnson, who got snubbed from the Big Ten's All-Defense team last week. "Damian Johnson is the most versatile defensive player I've ever coached at any level," Smith said. Johnson could be a huge factor today. Point guard Devoe Joseph has been terrific for Minnesota this week, and big men Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson turned in great performances Saturday against Purdue. No Gophers player logged more than 26 minutes Saturday, so this team will be rested. Do these Gophers have one more upset left in them?
INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten tournament has reached the semifinals. Here's a look at the two matchups on tap today at Conseco Fieldhouse.

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)

Records: Ohio State (25-7), Illinois (19-13)

Season series: The Buckeyes swept two games from Illinois and did so in convincing fashion, pummeling the Illini 72-53 in Champaign and 73-57 in Columbus.

Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Minnesota in the championship game Sunday (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET).

What to watch for Ohio State: Evan Turner's legend grew Friday as the National Player of the Year frontrunner hit a 37-foot shot as time expired to lift the Buckeyes to a 69-68 victory over Michigan. Turner has been very good against Illinois this season, averaging 16 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two meetings. Ohio State called Friday's game a wake-up call after a 10-day layoff, and Turner and his teammates need to reclaim their defensive swagger. Illinois big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis turned in one of their best performances Friday against Wisconsin, and it'll be important for Buckeyes center Dallas Lauderdale to stay out of foul trouble. Buckeyes sharpshooter Jon Diebler was on fire in his last game against Illinois, swishing 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.

What to watch for Illinois: The Illini likely put themselves in the NCAA tournament with the Wisconsin win, but they can virtually guarantee a spot with a win today. Star guard Demetri McCamey comes off one of his more complete performances of the season (13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), and he'll need an even better effort against the Buckeyes and Turner, his former high school teammate in Chicago. Tisdale did a nice job of extending Wisconsin's defense Friday, hitting two 3-pointers and several long 2-pointers. If he can bring Lauderdale or David Lighty away from the bucket, it should free up opportunities for others. D.J. Richardson looked like a freshman for much of Friday's quarterfinal win, but he found his shooting stroke late and never lost confidence. He needs to be a factor today if Illinois plans to advance.

Quotable:

Ohio State forward David Lighty: "It's a wake-up call. Watching games [Thursday], watching Syracuse go down, watching Kansas go down to the wire almost and things like that, it's kind of like we almost did the same thing. We have to get our minds right. It's like second lift, second wind for us."

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber: "No matter what, [Ohio State has] to be feeling relieved about [Friday's win], and then second, 'We kicked Illini butt two times.' I hope we can have a little bit of a mental edge."

No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (CBS, 25 minutes after Ohio State-Illinois game)


Records: Purdue (27-4), Minnesota (20-12)

Season series: Purdue crushed Minnesota 79-60 in West Lafayette on Jan. 5 and found a way to escape Williams Arena with a 59-58 win Feb. 24 after losing star forward Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury in the first half.

Advancement: Winner faces Ohio State or Illinois on Sunday in the championship.

What to watch for Purdue: The Boilermakers missed 10 of their first 11 shots Friday against Northwestern and likely can't afford another slow start against surging Minnesota. Juniors E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are really answering the bell in Hummel's absence, and both men need strong performances again today. Johnson recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in the 1-point win at Minnesota, while Moore recorded 18 points and five assists in the teams' first meeting. The Boilers amped up their defensive intensity Friday and will try to fluster Gophers guards Devoe Joseph, Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Purdue won Friday without much from senior guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, who struggled with poor shooting and cramps. Both men need to be better today.

What to watch for Minnesota: The Gophers have put themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they probably will put themselves into the field of 65 by beating Purdue. Aside from an ugly loss at Michigan on March 2, Minnesota has played pretty good ball the last three and a half weeks. Minnesota already has avenged a 1-point home loss to Michigan State and looks to do the same against Purdue. The Gophers' interior defense needs to be good on Johnson, but Tubby Smith is getting very solid play from forward Damian Johnson and center Colton Iverson right now. Minnesota has more length from Purdue and needs center Ralph Sampson III to bounce back from a poor performance Friday (0 points, 2 rebounds). Remember that Sampson had the best game of his career against Purdue in Minneapolis, recording 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Quotable:

Purdue coach Matt Painter: "Our next opponent, no matter who it is, we have to out rebound them, but if we don't, we have to shoot the ball better. We're not going to get out rebounded and shoot the way we did [Friday] and win basketball games. You've got to understand how you're going to win, but you've also got to understand how you're going to lose and be proactive about that as a coach and really drill that home to your players."

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We're as talented as anybody when we play the right way. I think every coach in America feels that way about their team, especially when they get to this level. If you don't feel that way, you're not going to win any games. I've got as much confidence in this team as in any team I've ever coached."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Lawrence Westbrook wasn't sure how Minnesota's overtime upset of Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals would affect the Golden Gophers' NCAA tournament chances.

[+] EnlargeDevoe Joseph
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDevoe Joseph scored 17 points during Minnesota's upset of Michigan State.
But the Minnesota senior guard planned to find out. Fast.

"I've got to watch ESPN and see," he said after the 72-67 win. "It can't hurt us. We helped ourselves. We have to be in the discussion, at least. We've just got to keep on playing."

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the Gophers as the first team out of the NCAA field, but that's certainly an improvement from 48 hours ago, when Minnesota was simply an afterthought. The Gophers, who now have four wins against top 25 teams, likely will move onto the right side of the bubble with a win Saturday against No. 2 seed Purdue in the tournament semis.

"Our loss is hopefully Minnesota's gain," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

They came to Indianapolis after a season of what-ifs and quality losses, which don't help much on the tournament résumé. Arguably no team in America has had a more frustrating string of losses: seven by five points or fewer, four by three points or fewer and 1-point home losses to then-No. 3 Purdue and then-No. 6 Michigan State.

It's why head coach Tubby Smith bristled at a suggestion late Friday that his team was an enigma.

"I didn't see ups and downs," he said. "I saw close losses where we didn't make plays. ... We haven't been far off, and I've been trying to stay positive, telling the guys, 'Don't listen to any garbage. Don't listen to the static. Don't listen to the people that disrespect you.'"

Smith's players might not be listening, but they're certainly aware of how they're perceived. The team dons T-shirts before and after games that contain one word: Respect.

Minnesota earned some on Friday night.

"Every one of these games is our last chance," said center Colton Iverson, with the "Respect" T-shirt hanging from his neck. "I feel like we came with more intensity [than Michigan State]. We had more to play for.

"I'm not on the committee, but I hope people are looking at us."

Those who tuned in Friday saw a talented team that seems to be clicking at the right time. They saw a team that out-toughed an Izzo-coached squad, which is never easy to do. They saw a team getting big contributions from Iverson (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks), forward Damian Johnson (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) and guard Blake Hoffarber (14 points, 5 rebounds).

They also saw a team following a new leader, Devoe Joseph, who took over the point guard duties from Al Nolen after Nolen was ruled academically ineligible. Joseph racked up 17 points, four assists and six rebounds Friday, blending a shooting guard's mentality with his new role as floor leader. He hit two 3-pointers in the extra session, including a game-tying triple with 4:12 left.

"I was very composed and just very excited to win the game," Joseph said. "I was in the zone, to the point where I wasn't really thinking too much."

Added Smith: "He's a clutch performer."

Perhaps the same can start to be said about this Minnesota team, which was about as un-clutch as they come for most of the season. The Gophers are two wins away from a tournament title and an automatic berth, and they think they can get there.

"I have as much confidence in this team as any team I've ever coached," Smith said. "The sky's the limit."

In the post-game locker room, Joseph huddled with Iverson and several other players. They put their hands together and counted off, "1-2-3!" But instead of punctuating the cheer with "Win!" or "Big Ten champs!" they simply exhaled and started laughing.

They'd earned the right to breathe easy. At least for a night.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Forty-eight hours ago, the Big Ten seemed in danger of sending only four teams to the NCAA tournament.

Now the league might get six.

After Illinois upset Wisconsin earlier in the day, No. 6 seed Minnesota held on for a 72-67 overtime win against No. 3 seed Michigan State. The Gophers recorded their fourth win against a Top 25 opponent and now find themselves firmly on the bubble rather than the wrong side of it.

If Illinois is supposedly in the field of 65, how far behind are the Gophers?

The win wasn't easy, as Minnesota blew a 10-point, second-half lead and fell behind early in overtime.

Minnesota has endured a season of near misses, losing five games by three points or fewer, including 1-point home setbacks to both Michigan State and Purdue. Friday's game started to look like another one, as Michigan State closed regulation on a 15-5 run.

Then Devoe Joseph stepped in.

Joseph, who has been huge down the stretch in place of ineligible point guard Al Nolen, recorded 17 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead the Gophers (20-12). He swished two huge 3-pointers in overtime and provided tremendous leadership throughout.

The Gophers, who had forwards Colton Iverson (12 points) and Damian Johnson (8 points) both foul out, also received a big performance from guard Blake Hoffarber (14 points). Senior guard Lawrence Westbrook struggled but had a huge 3-point play in overtime.

Michigan State came out flat and struggled mightily at the foul line, hitting just 18 of 34 attempts. The Spartans really missed junior guard Chris Allen, suspended for the game for violating team policy. They needed Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers to carry a greater load, and both starters struggled for much of the game.

Things got heated in the closing minutes with several near fights, but Minnesota won the ultimate battle and will advance to face Purdue on Saturday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Minnesota continues to grind away toward a potential NCAA tournament berth, and the Gophers are halfway to a signature win. Michigan State missed 15 of its first 21 shots but found a rhythm late in the half to keep things close.

Some quick thoughts at the break of Friday's final quarterfinal matchup:

  • Michigan State really missed suspended guard Chris Allen for most of the hard, as starters Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers both struggled. But sophomore Korie Lucious provided a much-needed boost in the final minutes, hitting two 3-pointers to cut into Minnesota's lead. The Spartans still will need more from Lucas and Summers, who combined to make only 3 of 13 field-goal attempts.
  • If you enjoy a smooth shooting stroke, Minnesota's Blake Hoffarber has one of the best in the country. Hoffarber, whose heroics in this building two years ago are legendary, has connected on 3 of 4 attempts from 3-point range to lead Minnesota. Michigan State needs to put a body on him in the second half.
  • I really like the spark Gophers forwards Damian Johnson and Colton Iverson provide. Johnson had no business being left off of the All-Big Ten Defensive team, and he seems to be taking it out on opponents in this tournament. The senior has six points and two huge blocks. Iverson (six points) also has two swats and seems comfortable mixing it up down low. It should be a good matchup in the second half between those two and Michigan State's Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Four quarterfinal matchups in the Big Ten tournament are on tap today.

Let's take a quick look at each one.

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 8 seed Michigan (ESPN, noon ET)

Records: Ohio State (24-7), Michigan (15-16)

Season series: The teams split two matchups, with Michigan winning 73-64 in Ann Arbor and Ohio State prevailing 66-55 in Columbus on Feb. 27.

Advancement: Winner faces Wisconsin or Illinois in Saturday's first semifinal (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)

What to watch for Ohio State: National Player of the Year front-runner Evan Turner makes his first appearance in the Big Ten tournament, as Ohio State eyes a possible No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes could sneak in to the top line, but only if they win the Big Ten tournament. Turner had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the teams' last meeting after sitting out a Jan. 3 game at Michigan with a broken back. Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (60.4 ppg) and will try to contain Michigan star forward DeShawn Sims with Dallas Lauderdale.

What to watch for Michigan: The Wolverines need a complete performance to beat the surging Buckeyes, and they'll look for big things from guard Manny Harris, who looked good in Thursday's first-round win against Iowa (22 points, 9 rebounds). Michigan played stifling defense for most of the Iowa win and needs a similar effort against Turner, David Lighty and William Buford. The good news is U-M seems to match up decently with Ohio State this year. "We beat them for a whole game, beat them for a half," Wolverines forward Zack Novak said Thursday. "They got us for one half this year, so we’re confident going in."

No. 4 seed Wisconsin vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (ESPN, 25 minutes after Michigan-Ohio State)

Records: Wisconsin (23-7), Illinois (18-13)

Season series: The teams split two meetings, with each squad winning on the other's home floor. Illinois stunned Madison at the Kohl Center on Feb. 9, but Wisconsin surged to a 72-57 rout Sunday in Champaign.

Advancement: Winner plays Ohio State or Michigan in Saturday's first semifinal.

What to watch for Wisconsin: The Badgers might be the hottest team in this tournament, having won four consecutive games. It's no secret the surge has coincided with the healthy return of forward Jon Leuer, who won Big Ten Player of the Week honors last week. Leuer (14.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and forward Keaton Nankivil (8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) really balance out Wisconsin's offense and will put pressure on Illinois bigs Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. The Badgers flustered Illinois star Demetri McCamey in Sunday's win and need a similar defensive effort from Jordan Taylor.

What to watch for Illinois: McCamey's sideline confrontation with head coach Bruce Weber generated plenty of national attention, and it will be interesting to see how the mercurial star responds today. Illinois needs its best player to be at his best against a jelling Badgers team. The Illini are only 1-5 since their win in Madison and need to find other ways to score if the outside shots aren't falling. They also must rebound better after Wisconsin crashed the offensive glass well in Sunday's game.

No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 7 seed Northwestern (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Records: Purdue (26-4), Northwestern (20-12)

Season series: Northwestern won the teams' only meeting, 72-64, on Jan. 16, which marked Purdue's last loss with a healthy Robbie Hummel.

Advancement: Winner faces Michigan State or Minnesota in Saturday's second semifinal (CBS, 25 minutes after first semifinal).

What to watch for Purdue: After a rough start in its first game without Hummel, Purdue rallied last week for two wins. The Boilers need a strong effort today from center JaJuan Johnson, who was a nonfactor before fouling out against Northwestern the last time the teams met. Senior guard Chris Kramer also had a rough outing in Evanston and needs to be a bigger factor on both ends of the floor. Purdue's suffocating man-to-man defense could be the difference tonight. "Instead of someone picking you up at 21 feet, they pick you up at 90 feet," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said.

What to watch for Northwestern: The Wildcats actually match up well against Purdue. They have won two of the teams' last three meetings and choked away a big lead in the only defeat. Standout freshman wing Drew Crawford is very banged-up -- he had at least three ice packs on his body after Thursday's win -- so Northwestern needs production from other spots. Point guard Michael Thompson stepped up big against Indiana (16 points), but senior guard Jeremy Nash and sophomore center Luka Mirkovic need stronger performances today.

No. 3 seed Michigan State vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (Big Ten Network, 25 minutes after Purdue-Northwestern game)

Records: Michigan State (24-7), Minnesota (19-12)

Season series: Michigan State won both meetings, but only by a combined eight points. After a 60-53 win in East Lansing, the Spartans needed a huge shot from Kalin Lucas to outlast Minnesota, 65-64, on Jan. 23 at Williams Arena.

Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Northwestern in Saturday's second semifinal.

What to watch for Michigan State: The Spartans come off of a strong showing against Michigan on Sunday but will be without junior guard Chris Allen, who is suspended for the game. Allen ranks fourth on the team in scoring (9.1 ppg), and his absence will put a bigger burden on starting shooting guard Durrell Summers. Michigan State's front line has played better as of late and needs a strong performance against Minnesota bigs Damian Johnson, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. The Spartans haven't been great defensively this year, but they have held their last six opponents to just 57.2 points per game.

What to watch for Minnesota: After two blowout wins against bottom feeders, the Gophers can really boost their NCAA tournament hopes with a win today. They paced Michigan State in both games and endured one of several heartbreaking losses in the meeting at The Barn. If seniors Johnson and Lawrence Westbrook continue to answer the bell like they did Thursday, and if Devoe Joseph builds on a strong performance, Minnesota will be tough to beat. "Last time we played Michigan State we lost by one point," Joseph said, "and we made a lot of mistakes in the last four minutes, so I definitely think we can pull off the upset."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Point guard Devoe Joseph carried Minnesota through 20 minutes. After halftime, Minnesota's other guards got involved in a big way.

And with the Gophers' three-headed backcourt clicking, Penn State had no chance to rally. Joseph, Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber combined for 31 points as No. 6 seed Minnesota stomped No. 11 seed Penn State 76-55. Minnesota led the entire game but really opened things up early in the second half with a 20-10 run.

The Gophers' NCAA tournament hopes remain alive as they advance to Friday's quarterfinals, where they'll face No. 3 seed Michigan State (Big Ten Network, approximately 9 p.m. ET).

This qualifies as an impressive performance for Minnesota, especially given the way Penn State had been playing the last few weeks. The Nittany Lions split their final six Big Ten contests and gave league co-champs Purdue and Michigan State all they could handle.

After a sloppy end to the first half, Minnesota made almost no mistakes in the final 20 minutes. Hoffarber and Westbrook got it going from long range, and Ralph Sampson III, Damian Johnson and Colton Iverson beat up Penn State in the post. I'm really impressed with the leadership Joseph has showed at point guard.

Penn State had a season of near misses, but tonight's blowout loss has to be extremely tough for Ed DeChellis and his team. Star guard Talor Battle (10 points, 3-for-10 shooting) was a nonfactor for most of the game, and while he got some help from Andrew Jones, Chris Babb and David Jackson, it came too late.

The 2009 NIT champs certainly backslid this season, and it'll be interesting to see what happens with DeChellis in the coming days.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Minnesota is playing defense with the purpose of a team that needs a good week here to make the field of 65. Penn State came out looking ready for the offseason, though the Nittany Lions picked things up toward the end of the half.

Quick halftime thoughts:

  • Penn State arguably came in as the hotter team, but Minnesota was the aggressor from the start, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Penn State's greatest strength -- aside from star guard Talor Battle -- is its length, but Minnesota is even longer and has shown it so far. Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson, who was snubbed from the All-Big Ten Defensive team earlier in the week, has been tremendous with nine points and two rebounds in the first half.
  • Battle has been relatively quiet for Penn State (4 points, 2 assists), but sophomore guard Chris Babb is providing a big lift. Babb engineered a 5-0 run to end the half all by himself and has eight points. Penn State is at its best when Battle gets help from his supporting cast. Babb has provided some so far, but other players like David Jackson and Jeff Brooks need to become more involved.
  • Speaking of involved, Minnesota's starting guards Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber were virtually invisible in the first half. They were a combined 0-for-4 from the field for no points. Westbrook and Hoffarber combine to average 23.6 points a game, so they really need to pick things up after the half. Fortunately for them, point guard Devoe Joseph stepped up with 10 first-half points on 4 of 7 shooting.

Today's Big Ten tournament games

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
11:35
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten men's basketball tournament tips off today at Conseco Fieldhouse with three first-round games on tap.

Here's a quick look at the matchups:

No. 8 seed Michigan vs. No. 9 seed Iowa (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET)

Records: Michigan (14-16), Iowa (10-21)

Season series: Michigan won both meetings, pounding Iowa 60-46 at Crisler Arena and rallying for a 80-78 overtime victory in Iowa City.

Advancement: Winner faces No. 1 seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals Friday (ESPN, noon ET)

Three things to watch:
  • These are the two worst offensive teams in the Big Ten, as Michigan averages just 64.4 points and Iowa puts up 60.8 points. The Hawkeyes shot just 30.9 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range (4-for-24) in the game in Ann Arbor, while Michigan had a 14-point first half Sunday against Michigan State. Despite the offensive struggles, the teams found their scoring rhythm in their last meeting, as both shot better than 45 percent from beyond the arc. Don't be surprised if the game comes down to 3-point shooting.
  • Michigan center DeShawn Sims is a load for most opposing teams, and a smallish Iowa squad will have its hands full with the senior. Sims recorded double-doubles in both meetings with the Hawkeyes this year, including a 27-point, 10-rebound effort in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will need strong defensive performances from Jarryd Cole and Aaron Fuller today.
  • Iowa can't afford any sort of hangover effect if it expects to advance in Indy. The Hawkeyes lost their last two regular-season games, to Wisconsin and Minnesota, by a combined 62 points. Iowa endured its worst-ever loss to Wisconsin (67-40). As freshman guard Eric May told The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, "You’ve got to Etch A Sketch it and get it out of your system."
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Indiana (ESPN2, 25 minutes after Game 1)

Record: Northwestern (19-12), Indiana (10-20)

Season series: Northwestern crushed Indiana 78-61 in Evanston on Feb. 7, but the Hoosiers responded with an 88-80 overtime win Saturday at Assembly Hall.

Advancement: Winner faces No. 2 Purdue in the quarterfinals Friday (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Three things to watch:
  • The matchup features two of the Big Ten's top offensive threats. Northwestern sophomore forward John Shurna was the Big Ten's leading scorer in league games (20.1 ppg). Shurna matched his career high with 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss to IU. Indiana guard Verdell Jones III finished sixth in the Big Ten in scoring for conference games (16.7 ppg). Jones racked up 28 points in the teams' first meeting.
  • Northwestern needs to put a body on Indiana's Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco, especially after Saturday's game. All three Hoosiers freshmen recorded career highs in scoring, including 24 points from Hulls on 8 of 12 shooting from long range. Northwestern has struggled defensively away from its home court, and it'll be interesting to see if Wildcats head coach Bill Carmody sticks with the 1-3-1 zone against IU.
  • Two of the Big Ten's top freshmen will be on display today. Northwestern wing Drew Crawford earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year honors, and Indiana forward Christian Watford also gained consideration for the award. Watford will look to beat up Northwestern in the post, while the Wildcats need a lift from Crawford, who has been fighting injuries during the second half of league play.
No. 6 Minnesota vs. No. 11 Penn State (Big Ten Network, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Records: Minnesota (18-12), Penn State (11-19)

Season series: Minnesota won both meetings, but both were close. The Gophers prevailed 75-70 in Williams Arena and beat Penn State 66-64 in State College on Lawrence Westbrook's jumper as time expired.

Advancement: Winner faces No. 3 Michigan State in the quarterfinals Friday (Big Ten Network, approximately 9 p.m. ET)

What to watch:
  • Minnesota certainly should be on upset alert, as Penn State is playing its best ball right now. The Nittany Lions won three of their final six Big Ten contests and lost the other three by a combined 14 points. Penn State lost 11 Big Ten games by 10 points or fewer, including seven by six points or fewer. Penn State guard Talor Battle averaged 21.5 points in two meetings with the Gophers this year.
  • Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson will be playing with a chip on his shoulder today. Johnson's exclusion from the All-Big Ten Defensive team drew the ire of both he and head coach Tubby Smith, who called it "a travesty" and said Johnson should have been the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson can showcase his defensive prowess today against Penn State's David Jackson, who has played well lately.
  • Westbrook can make clutch shots, as he showed last month at Penn State, and everyone at the Big Ten tournament knows what Blake Hoffarber can do when the pressure is on. Minnesota needs both guards to be on target as the Gophers probably need at least two wins this week to make the NCAA field.

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